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	Image: La Première nuit (detail)

Location: Paris film series

Welcome to the City of Light

In the 1920s the actual streets of Paris provided the setting for groundbreaking experimental film and documentary. With the introduction of the 'talkies’ during the 1930s and 1940s, the technical constraints of recording sound forced directors to retreat within studio boundaries, making location shooting a rarity. During this era an intractable 'tradition of quality’ evolved, producing high-minded, literary films with a tightly controlled, studio aesthetic. In the 1950s those rigid filmmaking formulas began to be broken down as a new cinema emerged under the auspices of directors such as Robert Bresson, Jules Dassin, Jean-Pierre Melville and Agnes Varda. Using small budgets and little-known actors, filmmakers began to celebrate again the reality of location filming. This was a Paris blackened by soot, unencumbered by tourism and still recovering from the bleakness of World War II. In 1958 the explosion of the New Wave, centred around Paris, emphasised free-wheeling, documentary-style location filming using portable equipment and requiring little or no set-up time. With its youthful zest and an improvised cinema-vérité-style it made world film history.

Also screening

Two films by Agnès Varda on Saturday 13 October. For details, see Agnès Varda tribute

Acknowledgements for their valuable contribution to the film program: Mark Spratt, Chapel Distribution, Emmanuelle Denavit-Feller, French Embassy, Lina Raso, Level Four Films, Carlene Price, Australian Centre for the Moving Image, Philippe Chevassu, Tamasa Distribution, Catherine Natacha, MK2 Distribution, Serge Senezergue-Piron, Josephine Touma, Judy Annear, Diana Panuccio, Karen Hancock and special thanks to Terence Maloon

Institut Français is the agency for the Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs with responsibility for cultural activity outside France. It works to promote artistic exchange and dissemination of the French language, books and knowledge. Institut Français also complements the role of UniFrance Films in promoting French patrimonial cinema, the non-commercial screening of recent films, and showcasing its professionals. And Institut Français supports world cinema through the Cinémas du Monde pavilion at the Cannes Film Festival, the Cinémathèque Afrique, and Fonds Sud Cinéma for the funding of films, which Institut Français manages alongside the National Centre for Cinematography and the Moving Image.

Image: La Première nuit (detail)

Wednesdays 2pm & 7.15pm, Sundays 2pm
26 September – 28 October 2012

Special extra screenings:
Saturdays 29 September & 20 October 2012, 2pm


Tickets are issued at the Domain Theatre one hour before commencement. Films start at the advertised time. Doors open 30 minutes before this. Latecomers not admitted.

Location: Domain Theatre

Related exhibition: Eugène Atget

Embassy of France Institut Français


Dir: Jules Dassin 1955
115 mins 35mm B&W Rated M
French with English subtitles
Jean Servais, Carl Mohner

Blacklisted during the McCarthy era in Hollywood, director Jules Dassin produced Rififi while in exile in France. It is the story of a master criminal, dying of a respiratory illness, who brings together the best career burglars in the business to stage a robbery of an exclusive Parisian jewellery store. This groundbreaking caper film spawned many imitators with its detailed, documentary-like heist sequence running for half an hour without dialogue. The vicious aftermath involves the entire criminal gang in blackmail, murder, kidnapping and shoot-outs. Made on an extremely low budget, Rififi was filmed during the winter in Paris, using real locations rather than expensive studio sets. Dassin gained expertise in actuality filming while making The naked city (1948) which – unusually for an American production of this period – was shot on location in the streets of New York. The outdoor scenes of Rififi were filmed in Montmartre at sites carefully scouted by Dassin, who refused to shoot in sunlight, claiming that he 'just wanted grey’. The heist scene was based on an actual burglary that took place in 1899 along Marseille’s cours St-Louis.
(Also screening Friday 21 September 2012, 7.30pm, as part of Art & About)


Wednesday 26 September 2012 2pm – 3:55pm

Wednesday 26 September 2012 7:15pm – 9:10pm

Sunday 30 September 2012 2pm – 3:55pm

Paris La Belle, Paris qui dort/Paris sleeps/The crazy ray, La Première nuit, La Zone

Paris La Belle
Dir: Pierre Prévert 1959
20 mins 35mm Colour and B&W
French with English subtitles
Experimental documentary evoking two eras in Paris. In 1928, Pierre Prévert, with his brother Jacques and Marcel Duhamel, began shooting a documentary called Paris express. The film was never completed. In 1959 the director shot colour footage at the same locations to juxtapose with his original black-and-white sequences.

Paris qui dort/Paris sleeps/The crazy ray
Dir: René Clair 1925
40 mins 35mm B&W
René Clair’s fantastical comedy features a group of people wandering through a 1920s Paris which has been immobilised – suspended in sleep – by a mad scientist with his ray gun. With a taste for visual trickery using the mechanics of cinema, the director shows the squares of the Opera, of Concorde, the streets of Chaillot, silent and empty – as in the photographs of Atget. Only the mad Dr Crase can release the city back into life.

La Première nuit
Dir: Georges Franju 1958
20 mins 35mm B&W
Pierre Devis, Lisbeth Persson
‘It only needs a little imagination for our most habitual actions to become charged with disquieting significance, for the décor of our daily life to give birth to a fantastic world’ – so runs the introduction to this film depicting the nocturnal reverie woven around a runaway boy’s escape to the Paris Metro for a night. Georges Franju’s unique, early short films – which also included Blood of the beasts and Hôtel des Invalides – are one of the summits of post-war French filmmaking. His direct treatment of powerful subjects are a balance of sentiment, brutality and poetry, with a deep compassion for the characters.

La Zone: au pays des chiffonniers
Dir: Georges Lacombe 1928
40 mins 35mm B&W
Poetic documentary of the life of second-hand dealers and rag-traders inhabiting a narrow strip of land between Paris and the suburbs in the 1920s.

Note: There will be a 15-minute intermission.

Prints courtesy Institut Français and French Embassy

Image: La Première nuit


Saturday 29 September 2012 2pm – 4:15pm


Dir: Robert Bresson 1959
75 mins 35mm B&W Rated M
French with English subtitles
Martin Lasselle, Marika Green
One of the most significant and influential films to emerge from the post-war era in France is a portrait of a compulsive pickpocket who believes he is above the constraints of common humanity and the law. Robert Bresson’s intense masterpiece depicts the mechanics of theft – the 'ballets of thievery’, as fellow filmmaker Jean Cocteau called them – as an erotically and spiritually charged ritual. Location is one of the key aspects of Pickpocket, with Paris truly a character in the film. Michel, the young pickpocket, spends his days working the streets, subway cars and train stations. A realist practising close to the borderline of abstraction, Bresson displays a highly individual directorial style predicated upon absolute austerity of acting, dialogue and mise-en-scène. In an effort for clarity and simplicity Bresson uses rigorous, stripped-down shots and attempts to strip all artificial 'performance’ from the line readings of his non-professional actors – or 'models’, as he refers to them. The result is direct, clear, concise and tautly choreographed. Print courtesy Institut Français and French Embassy.


Wednesday 3 October 2012 2pm – 3:15pm

Wednesday 3 October 2012 7:15pm – 8:30pm

Sunday 7 October 2012 2pm – 3:15pm

Cleo from 5 to 7

Dir: Agnès Varda 1962
90 mins 35mm B&W Rated M
French with English subtitles
Corinne Marchand, Antoine Bourseiller
Agnès Varda’s masterpiece follows two hours in the life of Cleo, a successful pop singer, as she awaits the outcome of a critical medical test for cancer. Anxiously wandering the streets of Paris – its cafes, crowds, cinemas, street theatres – she gains a new sense of perspective on her sheltered, artificial life and gradually ceases playing the role her admirers expect of her. Varda once described her film as 'the portrait of a woman painted onto a documentary about Paris’. Fusing the immediacy of the cinema verité documentary – which was emerging at this time – with fictional drama, the director follows Cleo’s every step and accounts for every moment. With the retirement of some of the most prolific commercial directors of the first post-war decade, the late 1950s was a period of intense activity and renewal for French cinema. Considered the 'grandmother’ of the French New Wave movement, Varda anticipated this breakthrough with her early films and completed her second feature in 1962. Print courtesy Institut Français and French Embassy.


Wednesday 10 October 2012 2pm – 3:30pm

Wednesday 10 October 2012 7:15pm – 8:45pm

Sunday 14 October 2012 2pm – 3:30pm

Bob le Flambeur

Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville 1956
98 mins 16mm B&W Rated M
French with English subtitles
Bob, a retired bank robber and compulsive gambler, masterminds a raid on the casino at Deauville to cover his gambling debts. Jean-Pierre Melville’s distinctly personal study of an ageing gangster is a homage to the vanished Montmartre of the director’s youth. Superficially a genre film dedicated to American cinema, what is astonishing is the extent to which Melville’s gritty, free-wheeling camera style predates the French New Wave – the jump-cuts, jazzy score and visual quotes. ‘This is the kind of film that we want to make!’, exclaimed the young and rebellious Francois Truffaut. Melville set the example for independent filmmaking in the first post-war decade, and Godard acknowledged Melville’s influence, giving him an extended cameo in Breathless (A bout de souffle). Daniel Cauchy, who plays Paolo, Bob’s callow young friend in Bob le Flambeur, remembered that Melville would shoot scenes on location using a handheld camera on a delivery bike, ‘which Godard did in Breathless, but this was years before Godard.’


Wednesday 17 October 2012 2pm – 3:38pm

Wednesday 17 October 2012 7:15pm – 8:53pm

Sunday 21 October 2012 2pm – 3:38pm

Vivre sa vie

Dir: Jean-Luc Godard 1962
80 mins 16mm B&W Rated M
French with English subtitles
Anna Karina, Sady Rebbot
Unable to pay her rent, Nana (Anna Karina), just separated from her husband, begins a slow descent into prostitution. Set amidst the consumerist culture of 1960s Paris – a world of cinemas, coffee bars, neon-lit pool halls and pop records – Nana’s life is told in 12 episodes. Using interview techniques, direct sound, long takes, texts, quotation and statistics, director Jean-Luc Godard creates a multi-faceted examination of prostitution based on various documentary studies. The film is dedicated to B movies with echoes of the entire movie repertory of prostitutes. Godard stated, ‘You can either start with fiction or with documentary. But whichever you start with, you will inevitably find the other.’ A multi-faceted portrait of its star, Anna Karina, Vivre sa vie won the special jury prize at the Venice Film Festival in 1962.


Saturday 20 October 2012 2pm – 3:30pm

Le Samouraï

Dir: Jean-Pierre Melville 1967
101 mins 35mm Colour Rated M
French with English subtitles
Alain Delon, François Périer
A lone assassin, Jef Costello (played by an icy Alain Delon) is fascinated by the Japanese warrior tradition of bushido. He moves through a Parisian underworld in which the inhabitants, no matter how criminal, still live by their own personal codes. Jean-Pierre Melville uses the urban imagery of the gangster film in Le Samouraï to explore loyalty, betrayal, vendetta, friendship, heroism and cowardice. With an affinity towards location shooting which gained him a position as an antecedent to the New Wave, Melville stages a bravura chase sequence on the Paris Métro – a complex network as intricate as that of the city itself. Although a quintessentially French filmmaker, Melville was always a reticent, fringe-dwelling and independent figure. Unlike Godard who merely manipulates isolated elements derived from American cinema, the very ‘sensibility’ of Melville’s films can be traced to this formative influence.


Wednesday 24 October 2012 2pm – 3:41pm

Wednesday 24 October 2012 7:15pm – 8:56pm

Sunday 28 October 2012 2pm – 3:41pm